Responding to climate change in small and intermediate cities: comparative policy perspectives from India and South Africa

David Simon, Yutika Vora, Tarun Sharma, Warren Smit

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Remarkably little is known about how small and intermediate urban centres tackle their various sustainability challenges, particularly climate and broader environmental change. Accordingly, we address this in the very different contexts of India and South Africa. We conceptualise the small and intermediate towns, and the policy challenges and priorities for mitigating and adapting to
the effects of climate/environmental change that can enable transformative adaptations to changing conditions. Central issues are the divisions of powers, responsibilities and the fiscal capacity and independence of local authorities within the respective countries’ multi-level policy and governance frameworks. In India, various functions have been constitutionally devolved to city governments to enable them to govern themselves, while more strategic ones lie at state level. In South Africa, the divisions of power and responsibility vary by city size category. We compare the relevant city government functions in each country and how they can enable/disable policy responses to climate change. The relationship between their sustainable development strategies, plans, budgets, and actions are assessed and illustrated with particular reference to Thiruvananthapuram, Shimla and Bhubaneswar in India and Drakenstein, George and Stellenbosch in South Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2382
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2021


  • small and intermediate towns; South Africa; India; climate change; urban sustainability; multi-level governance; Thiruvananthapuram; Shimla; Bhubaneswar; Stellenbosch

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